Perhaps it is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a healthy environment, but a healthy life is certainly possible when living in a metropolis. According to CNN, large cities such as New York, Singapore and even the capital of Cuba, Havana, belong in the top 10 world’s healthiest cities.
Even though basic needs such as air and water are often of lower quality in urban areas, there are other factors such as the quality of life amongst citizens, healthy habits and the city’s facilities that make them beat other (smaller) cities in the rankings.
Some of the cities on the list, which was published by CNN recently, are not much of a surprise: Vancouver has been voted the best city to live before, and a Scandinavian city such as Copenhagen is likely to have a good healthcare system.
More unexpected is the ranking of New York, a city with such a high population density and endless avenues full of noisy traffic. One of the things that made New York deserve a place on the list is the smoke (or more the fact that there is so little), as the number of smokers in the city has reduced massively the past few years due to strict anti-smoking laws.
Another interesting city on the list is Havana. With a life expectancy that is just as high as in the United States, and an infant mortality rate that is even better, it is remarkable that the Cuban government spends just 4.4% of the amount spent by the US government on health care per citizen.
Apparently the Havanian secret is prevention: an intensive vaccination program and regular free health screenings in local clinics. In addition, where people in most large cities tend to have a more individual mindset, the citizens of the Cuban capital are taught to look after each other.
The key to these results is to look further than just the health care system. Culture seems to be important: the way people behave, the way they make decisions and their habits all affect health. In Copenhagen only 2% of people work 40 hours per week. The average there is 37 hours for full time jobs, which is significantly lower than, for instance, an average of 42 hours per week in the United States. Instead, people in Copenhagen spend time with their families or join sport activities.
The world’s 10 healthiest cities according to CNN:
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Okinawa, Japan
- Monte Carlo, Monaco
- Vancouver, Canada
- Melbourne, Australia
- New York, USA
- Jonkoping, Sweden
- Havana, Cuba
- Napa, USA
Image: Nyhavn canal, Copenhagen by Mstyslav Chernov (CC BY-SA 3.0).